Ipswich Witches lose their Championship play-off final as Sheffield Tigers are champs
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Witches 44 Sheffield Tigers 46 Agg: 81-99
Ipswich Witches battled to the end but it was Sheffield Tigers who were left dancing for joy at Foxhall Heath tonight as they clinched the Championship title.
The Yorkshire side were deserved winners, 46-44 on the night and 99-81 on aggregate, despite a great effort from the Suffolk side, who at one time were in touching distance of the visitors – until a disastrous heat eight.
With Witches star Kyle Newman leading on the final lap, he locked up and both Jan Graversen and Nathan Greaves piled into him.
A Witches 4-2 was turned into a Tigers 4-2, with Newman excluded and the Sheffield team were back in the ascendency.
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Three heats later they were almost home and dry, with Josh Bates and Scott Nicholls, who was guesting for the visitors, winning heats 10 and 11.
When Nicholls and Kyle Howarth completed a 4-2 in heat 13, the Championship was Sheffield’s.
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It was a disappointing end to the night for the 4,000 crowd who had come out in their numbers to support their stars.
The atmosphere was cracking but the Tigers controlled the opening heats before the Foxhall fans were on their feet in heat five as Cameron Heeps, the Witches man of the meeting, and Newman scored a 5-1 over Nicholls.
Two more drawn races followed before that disastrous heat eight and Sheffield regained their composure.
There was drama in heat one as Nathan Greaves cartwheeled down the back straight on the outside of Scott Nicholls.
It was a nasty crash but Greaves picked himself up, only to be excluded. In the re-run Danny King passed Todd Kurtz in style on bend four in a drawn opening race.
Jan Graversen just got round Greaves in heat two and took off with Greaves in chase. Ipswich reserve guest Alfie Bowtell was in third after Georgie Wood got in a pickle on turn two.
Cameron Heeps made a brave move on Lasse Bjerre in heat three as the pair went side by side all of lap one before the young Aussie got past.
Josh Bates, so impressive at Sheffield on Thursday night, got in a pickle on turn two as Kyle Newman flew past. It was a Witches heat advantage and the lead for Sheffield was down to 14.
Kyle Howarth got the drop on Rory Schlein in another shared heat, race four.
Heat five got the crowd on their feet. Heeps and Newman gated well, with Nicholls on the outside.
The former Ipswich man tried to get passed both Witches, but to no avail as the home side reduced the deficit to 10.
Howarth was looking good and he won heat six easily, almost as easily as Schlein won heat seven.
Heat eight was looking good for the home side as Newman led and Greaves passed Kurtz. But on the last lap Newman locked up on turn two and Graversen and Greaves piled into him. It was Newman’s fault and an Ipswich 4-2 was turned into a Tigers’ 4-2.
The Witches aggregate lead was down to 12 but Heeps rode a blinder of a race in heat nine.
Third out of the start it took him two laps to get past partner Newman, before flying past Howarth on lap three. It was stunning stuff fromm the young Aussie. Ipswich had the wind in their sails again, but Bates’ fine gate and defeat of King in heat 11 put pay to that and again the Witches were 12 down.
The home side just couldn’t get any momentum and the killer blow came in heat 11 when Nicholls led Schlen home and Kurtz held onto third, before Greaves fell at the back.
It left the Witches with a mountain to climb and despite Heeps’ brilliance to remain unbeaten, the Witches were starring defeat in the face when Graversen passed Greaves on the line.
The deal was sealed by the Tigers in heat 13 as Nicholls and Howarth produced some stunning riding before King produced an even better pass on Howarth. But the resultant 4-2 to the visitors saw their celebrations begin!
1 King, Kurtz, Nicholls, Greaves (f/x) 56.6 3-3
2 Graversen, Greaves, Bowtell, Wood 59.2 6-6
3 Heeps, Bjerre, Newman, Bates 56.8 10-8
4 Howarth, Schlein, Bowtell, Wood 58.1 13-11
5 Newman, Heeps, Nicholls, Kurtz 57.4 18-12
6 Howarth, King, Greaves, Graversen 57.6 21-15
7 Schlein, Bates, Bjerre, Bowtell 56.7 24-18
8 Graversen, Greaves, Kurtz, Newman (f/x) no time 26-22
9 Heeps, Howarth, Newman, Wood 58.7 30-24
10 Bates, King, Bjerre, Bowtell 57.8 32-28
11 Nicholls, Schlein, Kurtz, Greaves (f/x) no time 34-32
12 Heeps, Bjerre, Graversen, Greaves 57.0 37-35
13 Nicholls, King, Howarth, Schlein 57.7 39-39
14 Bates, Newman, Bowtell, Woods 57.8 42-42
15 Nicholls, Heeps, Bates, King 57.3 44-46
AGGREGATE: Ipswich 81 Sheffield 99
No tactical rides in play-offs
Ipswich: D King 9, R/R, C Heeps 13+1, K Newman 7, R Schlein 7, N Greaves 5+1, A Bowtell 3+3
Sheffield: S Nicholls 11+1, T Kurtz 4, L Bjerre 6+1, J Bates 9, K Howarth 9, J Graversen 7+1, G Wood 0